19 July 2013

Successfully cross-selling the services that you offer is one of the hardest things to achieve.
Yet, conversely, it is something that, once implemented, can be very successful in maximising the income you receive from a smaller section of customers.

Cross-selling underpins that 80/20 rule: that 20 per cent of your customer base should provide 80 per cent of your income.

There are four key elements to cross-selling that will lift the effectiveness of your cross- or up-sell. These are communication, relevance, positioning, and timing.

The communication you maintain with your customers – existing, new, and potential – is one of the foundation elements of the mix. Keep in contact with your existing customer base; for example, through a regular email newsletter. This enables you to maximise customer loyalty whenever you have new services to offer. Your existing customers know your expertise and level of customer care; they are therefore more likely to give due consideration to new items that you show them.

You can drive your strategy with existing customers through to your social networks, and leverage your existing customers’ longer attention span, and potential for sharing of information, to gain new and potential customers.

Customer testimonials are a key method of cross-selling. Social networks is one way of achieving this; but you can also build them into your website. One of the most successful ways of doing this is to have a customer review section on the services that you offer. It is one way of enabling your customers to see whether or not the item is relevant to them. You will notice across a range of websites – Amazon is a good one – that people will note in their product reviews the why for picking up that product and whether or not it fulfilled that customer’s need.

As with making every interaction with your customers count, cross-selling is about meeting your customer needs. One of those needs may be to see that other people also find of value the items you offer.

Positioning and timing are both closely related. What have your potential customers searched for, and what can you pair with that search? If your new customer is examining one product or service, but have not yet purchased it, you may want to include a section below it entitled Customers who viewed this item also viewed….   Once your customer has added an item to his or her shopping cart, you may want to offer related products. Customers who bought this also purchased… or even Recommended additional items.

In pairing products and services, it is best to pair them naturally. Depending on how your website is built, you may need to put a considerable amount of time and effort into considering how best to do this. Remember, this time is an investment in your customer relationship, and it will repay itself.

Some examples of natural pairing include selling financial planning services alongside basic accounting services such as tax returns; and you can position it by offering financial planning to improve your financial position over the coming year.

Another example is of pairing a particular type of sock with a particular type of shoe; this is important if you are selling dance shoes, for example; or hiking shoes. And your customer may not have even considered the impact of wearing certain types of sock.

It is important that the cross-sell is positioned, communicated, and timed well enough to push for a niche sale. Do not be a jack of all trades, or of all industries. Have the courage to specialise: targeting your messages is far easier when the message is specific to a particular audience, than it is to try and capture the attention of everybody.

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